Practical Software Measurement

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What's the Most Challenging Part of Digital Transformation?

Would you say it's resource capacity planning? Building continuous integration? Knowing if vendor bids are competitive? As a follow up to a recent post I shared on reducing uncertainty in digital transformation, I posed this question to my LinkedIn connections in a poll, giving them options I sourced from respected colleagues with experience in digital transformations. I also asked for suggestions not listed, in case there were challenges I might not have considered.  I appreciated the great feedback I received and wanted to share the valuable insights I gleaned from the poll.

Digital Transformation Challenges Poll

42% voted for “Capacity Planning” as their biggest challenge, 29% voted for “Continuous Integration,” 10% voted for “Vendor Bid Evaluations,” and 19% voted “Other."

What if You had a Navigation System for Digital Transformation?

How many times have you been in a situation when plans for cost, quality, staff, or duration have been confirmed, but a few weeks later the program veers off track? Maybe the targets were unrealistic, the requirements changed, or there were communication disconnects along the way. Unfortunately, these issues happen all the time with digital transformation, often times after the delivery roadmap has already been set!

Digital transformation is a big topic these days and the benefits can be huge. Many organizations are re-examining the way they do business from rebuilding in-house systems, to moving to the cloud, to changing how they interact with their clients. They are trying to answer questions like: how can we improve our decision making processes? And how can we better support our clients? Building the technology to support changes can be a complicated road.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to leverage a navigation system for these challenges? A system that provides a big picture view and also the necessary details to help guide your team as they move forward. At QSM, we provide this type of solution for our clients. It’s called SLIM-Control, a data-driven adaptive forecasting tool that curve fits to the actual data that directly reflects what’s happening throughout the transformation process.  The cost, schedule, and quality forecasts are generated by the actual data and QSM's empirically-based models.

What Do Software Estimation and the NFL Have in Common?

Football season is well underway, and as a loyal football fan I enjoy watching my team go through the highs and lows of wins and losses. Many of the weekly games come down to crucial plays where coaches must decide the plays to call.  Coaches now more than ever are analyzed by what plays they called or how they managed the game.  It’s interesting that these days you often hear of data driven decision making and what the analytics say.  More and more, technology is playing a big role in our lives, including sports.  Like so many industries, data-driven approaches are using models to determine “win probability”.  The data is now being used to determine if a team will go for it on 4th down, punt, kick the extra point, go for a 2-point conversion, and even when to take time outs!  This has changed how coaches manage the game. The analytics provide coaches the ability to make informed decisions and defend their actions based on data.  Coaches can now make critical decisions with confidence.  John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens Head Coach) is known to have an analyst in his ear during games feeding him probabilities. 

What if you could do the same for your software delivery?  QSM’s SLIM-Estimate tool leverages industry trends on similar projects along with your own historical data to provide valuable insight on potential cost and schedule outcomes. That’s like having your own personal analyst in your ear. 

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Estimation SLIM-Estimate Risk Management

Get Estimation Results Faster with QSM's New SLIM Pilot QuickStart

Estimation can be time-consuming. Whether it's gathering initial requirements from stakeholders, performing risk trade-off analysis, or reworking estimates when plans change, these processes can take days or, worse, weeks that you simply don't have.

We hear that. And at QSM, our goal has always been to make the estimation process as quick and painless as possible. For almost 45 years, we've refined our tools to provide accurate project predictions with very few inputs required. Leveraging the power of industry data and proven mathematical models, you can generate defensible estimates within minutes and examine alternative scenarios without tedious rework. But as with any tool, there is a learning curve and we recognize how hard it is to find time in a busy schedule for training. We want to get you set up and reaping the benefits of our tools so you can get back to working with your team to ensure that your clients and stakeholders are happy with the overall product delivery. This is why we're introducing the SLIM Pilot QuickStart, a training and coaching program with flexible delivery designed to work with individual client schedules.

Software Estimation Training

We believe the best way to learn is to learn by doing. The SLIM Pilot QuickStart program is an online, instructor-led live session that focuses on applying QSM's SLIM estimation tools and best practices to your current measurement problems. This "learn as you go" approach allows you to improve your estimation process quickly to improve the bottom line. The program centers around a 2-hour intro session filled with a wealth of information including: 

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Training Estimation SLIM Suite SLIM-Estimate

How to Mitigate Risk when Migrating to the Cloud

Moving to the cloud is big business these days. With any type of digital transformation; managing the migration, integration, and development work can be a stressful experience with a lot of risk. Wouldn't it be great to have a crystal ball that allowed you to make these big cost, staff and schedule decisions early in the planning process? I'll propose the next best thing: a database of completed and validated projects spanning multiple industries and development methodologies that can help you predict the way your project will behave.

The QSM Industry Database can provide this type of knowledge. With over 40 years of research and development, it includes metrics from thousands of completed technology projects from various application domains and industries. By leveraging this type of database, you can access industry benchmarks that can help you navigate the uncertainty that comes with planning IT transformations, software engineering, and cloud migrations.

What should this cloud migration cost? How long should it take? How many people will you need? What level of quality and productivity needs to be achieved to have a successful delivery? What are the chances of finishing within a 6-month time frame versus a 10 month? The secret to finding these answers is in the historical data. The way to bring that data to life is to use good scope-based estimation methods. In a view from QSM's SLIM-Estimate tool below, you can see some examples of how you might measure the size of a particular cloud migration to get started with an estimate.

Webinar Replay: Making Better IT Cost & Scope Decisions with Top-Down Estimation

Webinar: Making Better IT Cost & Scope Decisions with Top-Down Estimation

If you were unable to attend our recent webinar, "Making Better IT Cost & Scope Decisions with Top-Down Estimation," a replay is now available.

This year thousands of software, cloud migration, and IT development managers will spend long hours developing very detailed, bottom-up plans. Unfortunately, many of these plans will be unreliable, because they don't take into account the big picture. Generating top-down estimates, before detailed planning occurs, allow managers to see the overall development and delivery targets for cost and scope. This allows for managing project expectations and even negotiation before work gets underway.

This presentation includes a Q&A session with the audience and covers such topics as:

  • How to generate top-down estimates early in the decision-making process
  • Best practices for IT estimation
  • How to leverage historical data to improve estimation

Keith Ciocco has more than 30 years of experience working in sales and customer service, with 25 of those years spent with QSM. As Vice President, his primary responsibilities include supporting QSM clients with their estimation and measurement goals, managing business development and existing client relations. He has developed and directed the implementation of the sales and customer retention process within QSM and has played a leading role in communicating the value of the QSM tools and services to professionals in the software development, engineering and IT industries.  

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Webinars Cost Estimation SLIM-Collaborate

Upcoming Webinar: Making Better IT Cost & Scope Decisions with Top-Down Estimation

Webinar: Making Better IT Cost & Scope Decisions with Top-Down Estimation

Register now to reserve your spot for this webinar presented by Keith Ciocco on Sept. 15th at 1 PM EDT.

This year thousands of software, cloud migration, and IT development managers will spend long hours developing very detailed, bottom-up plans. Unfortunately, many of these plans will be unreliable, because they don't take into account the big picture. Generating top-down estimates, before detailed planning occurs, allow managers to see the overall development and delivery targets for cost and scope. This allows for managing project expectations and even negotiation before work gets underway.

In this session, you will learn:

  • How to generate top-down estimates early in the decision-making process
  • Best practices for IT estimation
  • How to leverage historical data to improve estimation

About the presenter:

Blog Post Categories 
Webinars Estimation Cost

New Video: Estimation Spreadsheet vs. Top-Down Tool: Which Is Better?

In most organizations, spreadsheets play a vital role for a variety of uses, from time keeping to budgeting to even estimating software development releases.  They offer a level of familiarity - most of us cut our technical teeth on spreadsheets from a young age and have grown with them as we advanced our careers.  When it comes to estimating software development, spreadsheets are a common “go-to,” but an estimation tool offers more flexibility, timely “what-if” changes and far less complexity for new and seasoned estimators alike.

Have you ever been in an organization in which the estimation spreadsheet was so complex and cumbersome that only a select few knew how to use it?  This leaves an organization vulnerable to perhaps a single link of institutional knowledge upon which they are making vital business decisions.  And if that one project manager, analyst or architect leaves the organization, switches roles, or retires, what then?  Even if they go on vacation for 2 weeks, you’re left with a spreadsheet that may have an impossible learning curve for anyone else hence delaying or possibly negating the estimates being created at all.

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Video Estimation

When Estimating IT Projects and Portfolios, You’re More Mature than You Think

Software Estimation Maturity

In talking with many organizations about their IT estimation practices over the years, I’ve noticed a recurring theme has been their self-perception of immaturity when addressing the use of a commercial estimating tool. Estimates in the workforce are typically generated via the Delphi method, multi-tabbed spreadsheets, and uncalibrated guesses.  When recommending a top-down tool approach, the feedback can be: “we aren’t mature enough to use a tool or model.” 

I’ve actually seen the opposite.  The top-down approach offers an on-ramp to more formal estimating by its very nature of needing few inputs, rather than the myriad of cells, rows, and columns required to be populated in a spreadsheet.  A top-down tool approach leads us away from relying on the institutional knowledge of a few people that may have relevant experience, but one day may retire or move on from the organization taking that knowledge -with them.  Also, a parametric top-down approach leveraging relevant historical data is much better than a wet thumb in the air.

Blog Post Categories 
Estimation

New Video: Negotiating Realistic Cost & Schedule Targets with Agile Estimation

In agile development, it's not unusual for software teams to have a fixed schedule or budget before any work begins. This is great information for stakeholders, but what if those targets are unrealistic? What if there were a way to evaluate trade-offs early in the decision-making process, before any detailed planning occurs?

With a top-down estimation tool like QSM's SLIM-Estimate, your scrum teams can quickly determine how much functionality they can deliver in a planned release schedule. If that target schedule turns out to be unrealistic, you can leverage SLIM-Estimate's time-tested models to calculate the impact of trade-offs. What happens if you add more people to the project? If the schedule is non-negotiable, how much functionality can you deliver in that period of time? SLIM-Estimate provides you with visualizations that are powerful when presenting to senior-level management and stakeholders. Plot your estimates against relevant agile trendlines from QSM's database of over 13,000 projects (the largest of its kind) and you can see how your estimates check out against the industry.

The video above shows how to use this powerful tool to generate defensible agile estimates you can present to stakeholders early in the planning process. Having data-driven information like this at your fingertips will allow you to plan and negotiate, and maybe even avoid disaster.

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Video Agile Estimation